Sunday, April 17, 2011

Snowbirds and Lemons....a sure sign of Spring

Every year, Spring heralds the return of many species that migrated south to flee the cold, damp and dreary Canadian winters. The re-appearance of song birds and sparrows, bats, and insects confirm that those of us who stayed have survived another season. Here at the homestead we are especially blessed to welcome the return of that most gregarious of seasonal returnees, the Canadian Snowbird. These inveterate travelers, lured by the strong scent of lush Canadian flora bursting out of hibernation, flock in droves across the Canada/US border late March or Early April. Our particular mated pair of Snowbirds arrived first week of April, bringing with all kinds of glorious citrus from California.

So lemons and oranges are currently in abundance here and it only seemed fitting that I celebrate these fruits. One summer, a neighbour and I, who shared a love of all things lemon, spent the season ferreting out the "best" lemon dessert we could find. Pies, tarts, hard candies, preserves all were sampled, collectively scored on their lemony-ness and that peculiar combination, most important in a lemon dessert, their balance between sweet and sour. I decided then and there that lemon curd, properly made, was likely the most heavenly thing I had ever stumbled on. I've loved it ever since.

So this morning, armed with a bumper crop of gorgeous California lemons (picked from a neighbour's tree by Gerry's Mom and Dad) I made my first ever batch of this yellow miracle. I used a recipe from the Lifestyle section of the UK's Guardian newspaper. I love the way their food writers write....very enticing. Here is the link for the particular recipe I used.

While this delightfully perky conserve was cooking, I quickly popped 12 tart cups into the oven. I know, I know. I didn't make them. But they were leftovers from Christmas when the tart count rises higher than any human can deliver so I buy the shells.

After the tart shells cooled a little, and the curd was well cooked, I ladled a small globule of golden curd into each shell and then poured the remaining curd into a well sterilized glass jar. Nigel says it should last two weeks in the refrigerator. Judging by the reaction of the quality control crew (Gerry, James and Jessica) I doubt that it will last that long.

For me, it heralds the new season and celebrates the return of our own two Snowbirds. After their visit, they headed farther up north where they will open their nest, build a summer garden and prepare to enjoy the glorious Canadian summer...not too hot, not too cold, but as Goldilocks says....just right. At least for us.


Friday, April 1, 2011


Well, not much has been happening around the homestead lately. Between work travel and crappy spring weather, being outside hasn't happened much. I did however attend the final Seedy Saturday of the year last weekend and really stocked up on beans, squash, beets, hot peppers and leafy greens such as kale, swiss chard, and collard greens. Now to just get some decent weather to plant things.

Leeks have gone in to some window boxes and my new fruit trees seem happy in their locations. The peach tree is well ahead of the apples in bud and the tea bushes remain unmolested by the deer. Luckily our ad-hoc fencing seems to be working.

The tomato seedlings have all been transplanted into pots and the dining room now has no room for dining as they all crowd around the two aerogarden hydroponic set ups we have. The grow lights from these units helps to keep the seedlings from getting weak and leggy. There is one heirloom tomato growing in the aerogarden and its strong summer tomato scent drifts through the house anytime it is given a little shake to help pollinate the masses of blooms it currently has. There are at least five tomatoes edging towards ripeness on it and the first taste of spring will come from inside the house for us.

I also have a bunch of herb seedlings just started as well as hot peppers, Hungarian Hot Wax, Piri Piri, and a brown mexican pepper. Can hardly wait to experiment with them in cooking.

Outside, I have noticed on azalea in bloom but the rhodos planted last year have been assaulted by some bug or other. Will have to feed them well to increase their strength against whatever critter is snacking on them. The garden make-over is on hold temporarily due to weather, illness, and some past uncertainty with my job but we should be able to get going in the next couple of weeks.

It poured here all day today but the weekend is looking a bit more favourable. Am hoping to at least get a half a day out in the yard.  Gerry's parents arrive next week on their journey home from a winter in the South. I hope it is at least nice enough for them to enjoy their visit.

And we still await our bees. Hopefully they should be ready within the next couple of weeks. In anticipation, Gerry and I opened a bottle of mead on the weekend and dreamt of a new batch coming from our own yard,

Cheers to Spring.